by Jack Mayne
Kerry Paulson, managing partner of adult care home Hanbleceya says July 12 will be the organization’s last day in Normandy Park.
Hanbleceya bills itself as “an organization providing multiple levels of treatment for adult individuals suffering from mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD and dual diagnoses … (an) adult residential facility, semi-independent living program and transitional outpatient program provide the full spectrum of treatment choices.”
From almost the very first – two years ago – it has split the community, some strongly supporting its group home approach and others vociferous against it and the people it drew to the neighborhoods of Normandy Park.
“The firestorm, for lack of a better word, in the community has hurt the clients,” Paulson said in a telephone interview from his office in San Diego. He said he was sorry the entire Normandy Park community could not have embraced what Hanbleceya was trying to do.
Paulson said Hanbleceya decided to leave Normandy Park “because we got tired of fighting the community.”
“There is a small minority of the community who are very, very vocal people who would like to see the demise of Hanbleceya in their area. It is devastating to some of the staff – 22 people lost their jobs and 15 clients had to find other places to go to get treated. But the reality is that all of the strife in the community was hurtful to the clients. Many of them felt invalid because of what was going on – here is the community that doesn’t want them in the community. It just got to the point that staff just didn’t want to do it any longer.
“We are not out of money, we are not doing it for any other reason than it is the best thing for everybody involved.”
In retrospect, Paulson says he regrets coming to the Northwest, “but you don’t know these things until it is hindsight, right? We came up there with good intentions, we helped a lot of people get better even in the short time we were there. We gave it a shot.”
He says Hanbleceya has intentions to expand elsewhere, “just not in the Northwest. I don’t think it makes sense to try that again.”
Caring for mentally ill people, he says, “is really hard work. We are treating people who are really, really sick – families that are really devastated that are dealing with havoc. It would be nice to be accepted into a community, it would be nice for people to want to honor what we are doing and to validate the work we are doing. It is difficult to be spending your time fighting communities, paying attorneys when really the focus should be on the individuals who need our help.”
He noted that Hanbleceya “lost a little bit of money,” but most of the investors in the Normandy Park endeavor would get their money back.
Objected to newspaper stories
Paulson disputes much of the June 27 Seattle Times story by Christine Willmsen but says “it is true” that he did not return the reporter’s phone calls asking for comment. He has been a critic of the three stories published in the Times over the past year, saying much of the newspaper stories were incorrect or misleading.
He referred to a June 27 news story in the Times that said, “A lengthy investigation by DSHS determined in September that Hanbleceya was illegally operating adult family homes.”
“A group of people in the community that opposed our existence (made) numerous complaints to regulatory bodies,” Paulson said. “As a result of those complaints, the regulatory bodies had to start asking questions, they visited our houses and made the determination, via letter in September that they felt like we were not complying with the regulations. As a result of that, we responded and they started an investigation.”
In March 2013, the state Department of Social and Health Services released a public letter “essentially saying that we are in compliance. All of our homes were in compliance.
“We decided during the investigation that we wanted to pursue getting a licensed adult family home, so we closed one of our five houses and we applied for a license to make that an adult family home,” Paulson said. “That would be a pretty important part of the Hanbleceya process to have that level of care provided. We do it in San Diego and it was always our intention at some point to do it in Seattle.
“We applied and were in the process and fulfilled almost all of the requirements until recently when we decided to close. We contacted DSHS and asked them to void the application. It was at our request that that happened.
The Times story said DSHS cancelled the application because Hanbleceya didn’t meet the requirements, he said.
“That is not true and DSHS would confirm that.”
“The last day in operation (in Normandy Park) will be July 12,” Paulson said, despite what was reported in the June 27th Seattle Times. “Whichever clients have not transitioned to other programs or to jobs or housing or back home – whoever is left we are continuing to support up until July 12.
“Actually, today (July 1) there are only two clients that are left in housing and they are going to be moving out together in the next couple of days. We’ve got three fulltime staff at the office available for any of the client’s needs.”
Three of the former Normandy Park clients have transferred to Hanbleceya in San Diego and a couple more are considering that move, he said. Despite the newspaper story that said some clients were abandoned, Hanbleceya is caring all for.
“Every single client was invited to transfer to our San Diego facility and we would pay all of the expenses to get them here and the facility has also agreed to honor all of the commitments that were in place. Anything the Seattle clients were committed to, San Diego would honor.”
He said if people who have moved out need added help, Hanbleceya would provide staff would help, noting that Dr. Jackie Ball is still on the staff if needed.
“Most of them have gone to other programs or they were ready to transition so they transitioned to an apartment, (or) to a job.”
Not illegally run
Paulson was critical of the Seattle Times June 27 article that said the homes were operated illegally. That “is not entirely true but what it did is it prompted an investigation which … conducted and found in March (2013) that, in fact, we were not conducting operations illegally.”
The state sent out a public letter to that effect but he said it was not mention in the June 27 newspaper story, Paulson said.
Paulson says the Times story related that “two (patients) claim they were kicked out of the homes for infractions and forced to live in homeless shelters or on the street until allowed to be readmitted.”
“That would never happen and that has never happened,” Paulson said. “There would be some instances where people were suspended from housing, but when we suspend somebody from housing, they are usually going to an alternative facility, sometimes the parent might decide they want to take them home, sometimes they might get hospitalized. In every instance, the families would be notified what our intentions are and they would have the choice.”
The Seattle Times story said a resident was taken by surprise at the closing.
“The doors were locked and everyone left,” the newspaper story said.
“I didn’t think I would get 10 days’ notice and they would leave without making sure we had medication, without making sure we had doctors set up, without making sure we had a place to live. They literally ran out of town,” the Time’s article said.
Not true, says Paulson. Hanbleceya notified residents of the Normandy Park facilities on June 3 “that is was our intention to close. We didn’t give anybody 10 days notice – we would never do that. In fact, every single client that was in the program at that time” was supported in transitioning out of the facilities.
“A lot of that transition process was terminating our therapists, terminating their peers and then providing for the needed support for them to appropriately take the next step.”
“We have staff there until July 12,” Paulson said.
He noted that the original five-year lease would be terminated as soon as possible but Hanbleceya wanted to be fair to Normandy Park Towne Center owner Tom O’Keefe, “a big supporter of Hanbleceya.”